– AS DELIVERED –
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
1. The Acceding country Croatia*, the candidate countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro* and the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Albania, align themselves with this statement.
2. Let me start with the Middle East Peace Process: ending the conflict is a fundamental interest of the EU as well as of the parties themselves and the wider region. For this reason, the European Union reiterates the urgency of renewed, structural and substantial peace efforts in 2013.
3. The EU commends and supports the diplomatic efforts currently deployed by the United States to facilitate this process, including the personal commitment by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, and urges the parties to engage in good faith and with the necessary political will.
The EU also recalls the particular importance of the Arab Peace Initiative, which provides regional support for a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
4. The European Union is aware of the obstacles which stand in the way of a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians but it also believes that a decisive breakthrough is possible and, that it must take place very soon. Waiting for supposedly better circumstances is not an option, as the time for implementing a two-state solution is running out.
5. The EU reiterates that Israeli settlement activities, which are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and undermine the viability of the two-state solution. The EU recalls its longstanding concern about the extensive use by Israel of administrative detention without formal charge.
6. The new opportunity for peace must be seized and must be about more than simply getting the parties back to the negotiating table. Greater mutual confidence between the parties needs to be created. An appropriate framework, including parameters, is needed for negotiations to have a chance of succeeding in a reasonable timeframe.
7. The European Union stands ready to give active and concrete support to these efforts, with all the instruments at its disposal. The emphasis that the EU has placed in recent months on economic development in the occupied Palestinian territory – in particular in Area C of the West Bank – is fully in line with the options and initiatives currently under discussion. The European Union is ready and willing to take its support to the next level, to help ensure that resumed direct substantial negotiations between the parties are successful.
8. In the same spirit, the European Union remains fully supportive of ongoing efforts aiming at Palestinian reconciliation under the leadership of President Abbas in line with the principles set out in his speech of 4 May 2011.
9. The European Union condemns in the strongest terms the latest rocket fire from Gaza and rocket attacks against the Israeli city of Eilat and reiterates its fundamental commitment to the security of Israel. It is vital that all parts of the agreement on the cessation of hostilities are implemented. In the same line, the EU also urges once again the full implementation of UNSCR 1860 in all its parts.
The EU will also continue to work to reduce actions on the ground which threaten the success of a renewed talks process.
10. The European Union understands that Salam Fayyad has decided to resign as Palestinian Prime Minister but that he will, for the time being, remain at the head of a caretaker government. The EU commends him for the remarkable results he achieved in institution building and in strengthening the rule of law over almost 6 years in a very challenging role. It recalls that, as the largest donor to the Palestinian authority, the EU played a major role in bringing about these achievements, which led international financial institutions to declare that the PA is above the threshold for a functioning state. The European Union stresses, in this regard, the importance of the Palestinian Authority’s fiscal sustainability and economic viability. It underlines the necessity for the transfer of Palestinian tax and custom revenues to be made in full and on a regular basis.
11. If an agreement to finally end this conflict that has lasted for decades was reached, the door would open to a deepened and enhanced cooperation between the European Union andall the countries of the region, bringing benefits to all involved and contributing to the prospect of a new era of peace and prosperity throughout the Middle East.
12. Allow me now to turn to Syria: the humanitarian briefings last week in this Council painted a horrific image, underscoring once again how civilians, and among them women and children, are paying the price for the fighting.
13. The EU recalls that the Syrian regime bears the primary responsibility for the ongoing violence and condemns the widespread and systematic violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law. We continue to witness indiscriminate shelling with heavy weaponry, air and Scud missiles attacks by the Syrian regime and just recently we have heard reports about another onslaught of the regime forces close to Damascus, killing at least 109 people in the single suburb Jdeidet al-Fadel, many of them civilians. The EU recalls the latest report of the International Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, which states that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed in Syria. In this regard, let me stress that all parties to the conflict should commit to their obligation to abide by international humanitarian law – including the protection of medical facilities, staff and patients – and hold to account those in their ranks who do not.
The EU recalls that there should be no impunity for any such violations and abuses. Syria has not responded to repeated calls from the international community to ensure accountability through a national procedure. The EU therefore wishes to recall that the United Nations Security Council can refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, as requested in the Swiss letter to the Security Council of 14 January 2013, at any time. The EU calls on the United Nations Security Council to urgently address the situation in Syria in all aspects, including this issue.
14. We keep up our efforts towards reaching a credible political solution through a Syrian-led political transition principally based on the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 and leading to a democratic, peaceful and inclusive Syria.
In this regard the EU welcomes the establishment of the Syrian National Coalition, which the EU accepts as legitimate representatives of the Syrian people, as a crucial step forward. We fully support JSR Brahimi’s efforts and the proposals he made on January 29. In his briefing just a few days ago he emphasised that the initiative of dialogue that was proposed in February by Sheikh Moaz Al Khatib should be further developed not discarded. The EU is therefore encouraged by the acceptance by the Coalition of the principle of a political process under credible conditions. It is of outmost importance that all Syrian opposition forces act in a united way towards a democratic transition in Syria in the inclusive framework of the Syrian Opposition Coalition. The EU looks forward to work with its interim Chairman, Mr. Georges Sabra, to this aim. In this regards, we also welcome the opening of the office of the Syrian National Coalition in New York.
15. Alongside its diplomatic action to promote a political settlement, the EU is the leading humanitarian donor in the context of the Syrian conflict, as a part of a wider international response. The total EU response to the crisis, including pledged support, has reached a level of close to €800 million committed by the EU and its Member States. However, this is still insufficient to cope with the growing number of persons in need. We are particularly grateful to the governments and the peoples of Syria’s neighbouring countries for the generosity they have shown and we call on Member States to honour their pledges made, most recently at the Kuwait Conference.
16. But money is only one aspect of the problem. Given the quickly deteriorating situation and the high risk for the overall stability of the region, effective delivery of aid to all those in need is urgently required. As was asked by Under Secretary General Amos in her statement before the Council last week, the EU will take steps in line with humanitarian principles, towards providing humanitarian assistance to all areas in the country, including those currently not reached by humanitarian aid.
The complex situation on the ground and the difficulty in gaining access require that the EU works with the Syrian National Coalition where necessary to calibrate its response to the real needs of the population inside Syria. The EU also urges the regime in Damascus to allow delivery of humanitarian assistance by whatever routes are most effective in order to reach all the population in need, including across borders, and to allow a broader scope of humanitarian actors to work in Syria. We welcome the fact that the Security Council could finally agree on joint messages in this regard after the humanitarian briefing. But more is required from the Council.
17. The Syrian conflict has already gone beyond Syrian borders. The crisis is escalating in a dramatic and unpredictable way, with a huge potential to destabilise the entire region. We urge the Security Council to actively follow the situation in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and other spill-over threats. The EU recalls the necessity for the Syrian Authorities to respect the sovereignty and integrity of the neighbouring States and condemns its violations.
18. Lastly, the EU is extremely concerned by allegations that chemical weapons might have been used in Syria. We emphasize that any use of chemical weapons, whether by a State or a non-State actor, is abhorrent and must be unreservedly condemned. The EU and its member states addressed a letter to the Secretary General welcoming his decision to start an investigation on this matter. We remain convinced that the seriousness of the allegations that have been made warrants a full, independent and impartial investigation, and that such an investigation should commence quickly and cover all serious allegations about the use of chemical weapons in Syria. All parties in Syria, particularly the Syrian regime, must cooperate fully with the investigation including by providing unimpeded access for investigators. They must also ensure the safety and security of chemical weapons stockpiles pending independently verified destruction under OPCW supervision.
I thank you, Mr. President.
* Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.